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Series Preview: Chris Archer returns as Twins face Rays

Old friend alert!

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays salvaged a series victory against the Seattle Mariners after dropping game one. The Rays look for their fourth straight series victory against the streaking Minnesota Twins. The Twins have won seven games in a row.

The Rays are third in the American League East at 11-8. The New York Yankees lead the way at 13-6. The Toronto Blue Jays sit 0.5 game behind at 13-7. The Rays are 2.0 games back. The Boston Red Sox (8-12) and Baltimore Orioles (6-13) are off to rough starts.

Schedule

Friday 7:10 PM: Dylan Bundy vs Corey Kluber
Saturday 4:10 PM: Chris Archer vs Shane McClanahan
Sunday 1:10 PM: Chris Paddack vs Josh Fleming

Corey Kluber’s start was pushed back to game one. Josh Fleming likely will come in behind an opener. This weekend the Rays are likely to get as many innings as they can from their bullpen before they are forced to cut the roster from 28 to 26 on Monday.

Dylan Bundy has gotten off to a quick start with a 0.59 ERA/1.70 FIP/3.01 xFIP through his first three starts of the year. Bundy has a career 4.64 ERA/4.63 FIP/4.48 xFIP. The biggest factor in his fast start has been his 1.7% walk rate compared to his 7.7% career walk rate. Dylan Bundy doesn’t have the stuff that led him to being the fourth overall pick by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2011 draft. His 89.0 mph fastball is down almost two mph from last year’s rate and down over five mph from his near 95 mph peak in 2016. Against right handed batters he leans on a 79.4 mph slider that he has gotten a 40.7% whiff rate this year, but rarely throws it to left handed batters. Against left handed batters he relies on a 81.4 mph changeup that he doesn’t get very many whiffs on. He will sprinkle in the occasional 72.4 mph curveball to batters from both sides of the plate.

Chris Archer returns to the field he’s called home for the majority of his major league career and where he’s found most of his success. Last year he tried to make a return with the Rays after a missed 2020 season, but only logged 19.1 innings before his season ended. So far he’s posted 11.1 innings with a 3.18 ERA/5.18 FIP/4.90 xFIP. His 20.4% strikeout rate is down from what he typically posts and his 12.2% walk rate is higher. That’s a bad combination that he’s going to look to correct as he builds up. Archer continues to rely on two pitches. A 93.1 mph four-seam fastball and 88.8 mph slider. He’s always thrown the slider a significant amount — often at varying speeds — but this year that has moved to a majority at 53.0%. He has yet to throw his changeup, but has thrown a handful of 82.7 mph curveballs.

Chris Paddack came over in a trade with the San Diego Padres as Spring Training ended. Paddack had a very successful rookie year posting a 3.33 ERA, but over the last two seasons that ballooned to 4.95. This year he’s been more of the former posting a 3.68 ERA/1.70 FIP/2.74 xFIP. He is a flyball pitcher that has leaned on his plus changeup for success. He has been a beneficiary of the ball not flying as far early in the year. Paddack throws a 92.9 mph four-seam fastball, 82.6 mph changeup, and 76.1 mph curveball. He’s found more whiffs on the his fastball when he throws it up in the zone and has increased his curveball usage significantly.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota made a series of moves to rearrange their offense.

In one of the most surprising moves after the lockout ended the Twins were able to sign Carlos Correa. In order to make room they traded Josh Donaldson to the Yankees and received Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez.

As a team the Twins are hitting .225/.314/.369 and putting up a 107 wRC+. They have been able to get on base despite a low batting average with middling power.

Byron Buxton is looking to build on his breakout that always seems to get derailed by injury. He’s missed some time with an ankle injury but leads the Twins offense in most offensive categories by hitting .289/.347/.778 and posting a 230 wRC+. He has six homers, but hasn’t been active on the bases yet. He has one stolen base, but that’s sure to change as the season progresses.

Max Kepler (156 wRC+), Luis Arraez (140 wRC+), and Gio Urshela (135 wRC+) have helped Buxton offensively, while Jorge Polanco (96 wRC+) and Gary Sanchez have been fine.

Miguel Sano (25 wRC+) has gotten off to a very slow start, and their big splash Carlos Correa (74 wRC+) hasn’t made the impact they have hoped, but it’s good the team has gotten off a quick 11-8 start while the rest of the division has started slowly with no team accumulating more than seven wins.

Syndication: The News-Press
Rocco Baldelli continues to rate well as the Twins manager.
Landon Bost/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY Network-Florida / USA TODAY NETWORK

Roster size drops on Monday

On Monday the active roster drops from 28 to 26. Teams will be able to keep 14 pitchers through the end of May, but I expect the Rays will cut two pitchers and keep the 13 position players they currently have.

A strong finish to a long homestand would be great before the Rays head west with their longest road trip on the season where they will play the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, and Los Angeles Angels.